A decade ago, there were 6.5 million children in out-of-school time programs. Over the years, such programs have grown in sophistication, increased their offerings and improved their quality. Today, more than 10 million children are in out-of-school time programs. These programs not only help provide our kids with a safe and supervised environment, they can also be valuable partners in improving kid’s health and wellness.
That’s why the National AfterSchool Association adopted clear and consistent standards for healthy eating and physical activity (HEPA) in out-of-school time programs. However, in many states, out-of-school time programs don’t meet these standards. In fact, for many out-of-school time program providers, it may be difficult to know how to implement these standards or they lack the adequate resources to do so.
Together, with members of our community and out-of-school time providers, we can provide input on statewide policies to ensure that local programs adopt HEPA standards. We can start by pushing for the adoption of recognition programs that provide grant resources and technical assistance for out-of-school time programs that meet HEPA standards. It’s one way we can work together to set our kids up for a healthy future, ultimately helping to decrease health disparities and improve the overall wellness for all children.
Whether you choose to write an op-ed for your local newspaper, strike up a conversation at the grocery store with a neighbor, or speak at your child’s school, there are certain key messages you’ll want to include in your conversation to make your point compelling. Make sure to include a variety of points of view in your messages, such as teachers, parents, and school administrators. Taking the time to tailor your message to share a perspective that is important to your audience will help you create a broad coalition of support for providing resources to help out-of-school time providers meet HEPA standards in their programs.
Before you start building your campaign, it’s important to map out your main objectives—what you want to achieve—and align them with the key messages below.
Once you determine the specific policies and improvements that make sense for your community, make sure to include potential solutions in all your communication efforts, so that key stakeholders have a clear vision of what you’re trying to accomplish and how they can help.
Overarching Messages in Support of Implementing Standards for Out-of-School Time
This is the messaging thread that should connect all communications, no matter the policy objective.
Every kid deserves healthy food and the opportunity to be physically active when school is out of session, no matter where they live. Out-of-school time programs play a vital role in supporting the overall health and wellness of our kids.
Supporting Message Points
When you write and speak about your cause, here are some message points to highlight. Remember that there may be different audiences you’re trying to reach with your campaign. From policymakers, parents and teachers to other community members, each message point should be written to match the perspective of that audience member, so that everyone feels empowered and encouraged to get involved!
Effects on Children (Audiences: Active Parents/Local Non-Profit Organizations, like the PTA)
Out-of-school time programs can include before-school, after-school, weekend, or summer programs where school-aged children go for hands-on learning with caring and supportive mentors.
Out-of-school time programs can also help improve the health and wellness of children by providing access to healthy food and physical activity. When HEPA standards are met, there is a much higher likelihood of our children forming healthy habits to carry with them for the rest of their lives.
Out-of-school time Standards (Audiences: School Administrators/Decision Makers/Law-Makers/State Legislators/Health and Wellness Professionals)
Providers support clear and consistent standards in out-of-school time settings for food, beverages, and physical activity. Providers want to offer an environment that nurtures healthy children. Providers and parents want standards that will help all children grow up at a healthy weight and that won’t be a burden for providers to implement, like those championed by the National AfterSchool Association. Providers need additional support and resources to implement standards for healthy eating and physical activity. They want kids to:
- Be served more fruits, vegetables, and water instead of sugary drinks.
- Be physically active for a least 60 minutes per day and engage in both free and structured active
play, like noncompetitive sports.
- Be offered activities that are inclusive of children with all abilities, including those with physical, sensory, and intellectual disabilities.
- Limit time on digital devices to less than one hour per day and use that time for homework or games, with no television or movies allowed during this program time.
- Be offered water while they are attending out-of-school time programs. Drinks with added sugar like sports drinks, fruit drinks and soda have no place in these programs.